Makeup artist Kymm McLean looks like the hip, modern version of Disney's Snow White. She's got the same striking, face-framing, jet black hair (albeit a little longer), piercing but kind eyes and rosy red lips. But her business-minded attitude and colorful tattoos suggest she would never fall for the poison apple trick.
If you've been a fan of Creative Loafing's Creative Living features for a while, you might recognize McLean. We featured her Briar Creek Road rental home in an issue last year, showcasing her "design on a dime" décor, complete with color-splattered walls, homemade pop art, and a vintage camera collection.
Recently, McLean brought her makeup artistry and hair-styling work home with her — and kept it there. She's transformed what was once the bar room into a studio for her business, Who's The Fairest (www.whosthefairest.biz), named for the Snow White story. Here she meets with clients for consultations and practice sessions, or to get ready for photo shoots.
"I have been sharing studio space with photographers in NoDa for five years," McLean says. "And even though I work with a lot of those photographers and I like the environment, the décor is always random props and cameras and lighting equipment."
Because she mostly does photography makeup on location, she says she probably spends only three to four hours actually in studio. But having a workspace in her home lets her create a setting that reflects her personality and her company image.
"My vision was to create what I would think the parlor of the evil queen's room would look like," McLean says. "When she stood in front of the mirror and asked, 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?' this is what I assumed her parlor looked like."
The dominant color in the room is black, as you would expect to find in the living space of a villain. Sheer curtains drape over the entry and the windows. A lamp with a beaded shade adorns a draft paper cabinet, which she uses to store makeup. A number of ornate mirrors and picture frames dot the walls. A glass goblet with the word "Poison" etched into it sits on top of a tall bureau. It's all black.
"My company colors are black and white with a touch of red. And that is very much representational of my personality. I'm very black and white in a lot of ways, but there's always that little flair, just a little something different, and that's like the dash of red in there," she says.
In an almost poetic twist, reflective pieces big and small are all over the room. In the center is a glass table that McLean found on Craigslist. A crystal chandelier hangs overhead, its diamond-shaped pieces glistening in the light. Every wall is adorned with mirrors of varying shapes and sizes, including a set of five, coincidentally named Who's The Fairest, that she bought from Paper Skyscraper. And, like whipped cream on top of an ice cream sundae, another touch is a vintage, hand-blown glass apple, courtesy of eBay.
"My favorite piece is probably that glass bureau that's all cracked and broken," McLean says, pointing to a corner. "It's from Marshalls and I bought it like that. It was really expensive — it cost about $130, and they gave it to me for $20, because it was so smashed. I had a client come in, and she went, 'Aww, that's too bad, it got broken. I'm sure you could get that repaired.' It just went right over her head that I wanted it like that."
McLean admits she was a little concerned about the professional image of a home studio, but so far she's received nothing but positive feedback. Here, she also works on the other facets of her business. In addition to doing hair, makeup and styling, she has a jewelry line called Clock Strikes Twelve ("I only use hand-cut glass or a natural stone, no plastic, which makes them unique.") and a hair extension line she calls Rapunzel. "What makes mine unique is that they're measured for your head," she says of the extensions. "They're high-quality human hair. I make them two or three layers, which is unheard of. I hand-sew all the clips in, and they can be washed, colored, dried."
Needless to say, McLean is one busy lady; she works seven days a week. Her work ethic might resemble the seven dwarfs in the Snow White story — who sang merrily "Heigh Ho! Heigh Ho! It's off to work we go!" — but she's certainly no Sleepy, Dopey or Grumpy.